Two years and few months later I am pleased my blog hit 100,000 visits. Considering that there is sponsorship and this is pretty much content produced during free time I am well pleased.
So as commemoration topic I want to put a few considerations that spin off a post on the editing and share section of wet pixel.
Many people spend a lot of money on underwater video rigs and use sharing websites such as youtube and vimeo to host or promote their content. The reason is clear those sites have a huge audience and if you have original content you can get a bit of advertising revenue as well that is never a bad thing.
However most of us have noticed that once you upload a file on those websites it looks worse than the original some time much worst. Why does that happen?
The answer lies in two words video compression.
Video compression is a technical subject and my previous post tried to share some of my finding in regards of the reasons why a camera produces video better than another even if the second produces better still images. It is all in the compression effectiveness and the same issue applies when we share our videos on line.
Unfortunately many people do not really know much about this subject and assume that the video editing program they purchased has all the answers and everything is optimised. Well that is not the case. Video produced off the shelf by such programs with default settings may be watchable but are not great and usually worse than the source clip of a good deal.
Another common misconception is that you need to convert a file produced by your device to another format so you can edit.
Finally many people convert files many times and wonder why the result is far off the original clips, not realising that video compression is lossy so each time you manipulate a clip are you are making things worse.
Obviously am talking consumer and prosumer here not RAW video recording at stellar bitrates.
So what is the best way too produce an underwater clip that looks good without spending too much time on it and that when uploaded on the web looks still decent?
To give an idea why a clip like this one shot with a compact camera
Does not look to far off this other clip shot with a semipro camcorder Sony AX100
or a Panasonic GH4
What all 3 clips at 1080p on youtube and honestly evaluate if there price difference is justified you will probably think no and think the second clip is actually a pro.
So why is that?
50% of the problem comes from the editing, I don’t have the details of how the other two clips are done but I know my clip is edited with iMovie, surely not the most advanced tool on the market you would think.
However there are a few tricks of the trade that I will explain to you one at time:
1. Never let your editor convert the files at the import.
Unless your workstation can’t physically process them leave the clips as in. Even think about getting a better computer in the long run if you can’t process files as is.
Many editors convert the files at import, in intermediate formats like prores or Avid that have no temporal compression. Those files unlike the originals have each frame stored like a complete image so that it is easier to edit. If your editor allows you use the original file without any conversion. You can do this in Final Cut using proxy and cheating also in iMovie creating manually event folders and copying mov or mp4 compliant files manually into them.
2. Once you finish your editing use the highest quality option available for export.
This is sometimes a tricky issue as the default options of those programs mention sometimes just a quality option with a slider from low to best. Many programs though, like final cut offer other options and modules for advanced compression.
If you have spent money on the editor spend the extra funds on the advanced codecs as they are worth every penny.
Once you have the advanced codecs (x264 is the one I use and is free plug in for iMovie) use constant quality with factor of 18 and the slowest preset your workstation can bear.
X264 preset go from very fast to placebo, my workstation can tolerate a very slow for 1080p that applies all the most advanced compression settings. This together with quality at 18 gives me an output very similar to the input but much more efficient with a smaller file.
At this point you are nearly there and ready to upload on vimeo and youtube.
Between the two services which one has the best quality?
Vimeo plain and simple, the same file will look better than youtube with less artefacts at the same resolution, however vimeo requires you to have a plus account to upload and share in 1080p whilst youtube is free.
So this is the reason why your files do not look as good as the clips you shot with the camera when you share them.
Now onto the second part why do clips produced with my very expensive equipment look worse than someone with a much cheaper set up and inferior equipment?
This second problem has to do with the way videos are shot.
Many people look on the internet for guidance on how to produce a video clip that looks decent and are tempted by some esoteric terms such as: flat profiles, colour grading, gamma curves etc etc.
They then go into water with their camera set like they have read on the internet and then spend a long time editing their clips, after all that effort the result image is a bit soft and the colors are washed out. This seems to be quite a common issue especially with pros.
Note that the two videos above are probably two of my favourites of the last few years. However check the difference between the close up shots with lights or the land shots and the wide angle with natural light? Very different
This instead is an example of someone who knows how to work with the limitation of the set up:
Flat profiles and color grading may work very well when the environment is controlled in a studio situation or where there is plenty of light but in water this is seldom the case. So the best help is to get it right first time and if needed use a filter for your ambient light shots.
Many people including me used to be a white balance evangelist but I have to say with years I have lost interest and I think is greatly overrated.
This video from ikelite is my absolute favourite
The best part is at 0:45 comparing filter with auto white balance and filter with manual white balance. The clips says looks at the purple that comes with the manual white balance but actually that is a horrible hue there!
I have spent the entire 2012-2014 trips trying to perform custom white balance with various cameras, with various degree of success. When I was in Raja Ampat I once left the camera in auto and realised the color where the best I ever got. Though this was a mistake but after few months when I reviewed the clips and how they were taken I realised the truth, even since I have never hit the custom white balance button once on my RX100 and I am preparing to do exactly the same on the GX7.
So my five cents into video editing and doing something decent for sharing on the internet is based around the following key principles:
- Get the clip right in camera. Use the settings that make the clip look great at the outset, experiment until you are happy of the results. Forget about theory focus on what you like.
- Don’t let your editor alter the clips at all and use no or minimum grading or even try to do no correction at all including contrast and exposure any time the editor touches the clip something is damaged.
- Export with advanced settings using all the CPU power you have at hand to produce a high quality but as small as possible file
Good luck for your next trip, I am very much looking forward to mine!